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Candidate Reacts to Ballot Error That May Have Cost Votes  (AR)

Wes Clement   THE PineBluff COMMERCIAL   26 October 2008

A Redfield alderman candidate who may have lost votes due to an error on Redfield and Altheimer early voting ballots expressed dismay on Saturday that such a mistake could occur.

“I’m kind of speechless that this happened,” said Brenda Carmical, Redfield alderman candidate, Ward 2, Position 2. “I would like to know how many have voted to this point to see how many votes we may have missed. We have a problem in Redfield where many don’t get out to vote so it usually comes down to the nitty gritty. If someone has voted already, it could really have a significant impact on the results. Our last mayor won by only three votes.”

Carmical is facing Sandra Garrett and Harmon Christopher Carter for the council position. Neither Garrett nor Carter were available for comment.

The Jefferson County Election Commission met Friday morning to address a mistake in the programming of electronic voter machines.

The machines did not present all applicable alderman races to early voters of Redfield and Altheimer during early voting from Monday until Friday.

All voters are allowed to vote for alderman candidates of any ward in those towns, however machines presented voters with only alderman races of the wards where they were registered.

“A mistake was made,” said Taylor Eubank Jefferson County Election Coordinator. “We regret it and we fixed it.”

Eubank does not expect significant problems from the mistake.

“Well, I sure hate that it happened, but it sounds like the people down there are doing their best to make it right,” said Tony Lawhon, Redfield alderman candidate, Ward 2, Position 1. “What I really dislike is that the people who have already voted will not be counted, but I understand that’s the law. Mistakes happen and I’m glad they’re doing what they can to fix the problem.”

The problem was brought to the attention of the commission Thursday evening by Lawhon, who reported his race did not appear on the early voting ballot of a Redfield resident, said Stu Soffer, a member of the election commission.

While researching the problem, the commission learned the same error had occurred in Altheimer.

Those who have voted already are prohibited by state law from re-voting without a court order, Eubank said.

“It’s going to put some people at a bad disadvantage,” said Glenn Haddox, Redfield alderman candidate, Ward 2, Position 1. Haddox is facing Lawhon for the position.

“The way we campaign is for everybody in the city to vote for you and because of this, we’ve just lost votes,” Haddox said.

In Altheimer there is only one contested alderman race, so the commission voted that all remaining voters of that town would be entered into the electronic system as residents of the precinct that corresponds with the ward position on the ballot. This will cause the electronic voting machines to include the alderman race on the ballots of all remaining Altheimer voters.

Altheimer alderman candidates Lester Hudson and Chuck Givens could not be reached for comments. They are seeking the Ward 2, Position 2 alderman seat.

The commission began Friday morning creating paper ballots containing the three alderman races for Redfield. Remaining voters registered in Redfield will vote electronically on all ballot items except alderman races. All Redfield voters will use the paper ballots for the alderman races, Soffer said.

He said state law provides a candidate may file a suit within 20 days of the general election challenging the results to declare the election null and void. Soffer said County Clerk Trey Ashcraft was asked Friday to research the number of ballots cast containing the error.

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